Baby & Company is always excited to find fellow businesses dedicated to sustainable practices. The moment we were introduced to the founders of new coffee brand Onda Origins, Paul and Scott Tupper, we knew we were in the presence of true innovation. This week we peek inside the startup world and ask Onda's president, Paul Tupper, about the importance of high-transparency and how he distinguishes his business in the nation's coffee capital.
How did Onda Origins take shape?
Tupper: Before Onda, I worked in ecotourism, environmental education, and fundraising for environmental nonprofits. I had lived in a high altitude coffee region in Costa Rica (working as a naturalist guide) and developed a fascination with the intersection between coffee, responsible land-use and conservation, and livelihoods. Scott's schooling and early career were in the international development field–he witnessed first hand that well-intentioned development projects often fell short of the needs of the communities they were designed to benefit, usually because the projects were not driven by the local community; instead, they were prescribed by whoever was providing the funding. Long story short, Scott and I started brainstorming how we might make a scalable, impact-focused business that connected consumers and growers to make a difference together. There are 25 million smallholder coffee farmers in the world responsible for the stewardship of their lands, their communities, and their families. Coffee is consumed by the (literal) boatload worldwide. So we thought to ourselves, "what an opportunity for change." And with our first sale in April of 2016, we were off.
What sets Onda apart from other coffee brands?
We are foundationally an impact and transparency company–high quality, craft-roasted coffee is the vessel through which we deliver it.
How does this transparency impact the consumer, the grower, and the environment?
Creating real connections between coffee drinkers and growers means more people can use their dollars to create a positive impact in the world. For consumers, you can see through the supply chain to the farmer who grew your coffee, and how their earnings support their family, community, and environment. For growers, they receive a share of the revenue from your purchase of their coffee (providing 12x the bonus they take home through Fair Trade), on top of the premium price we paid them for their green coffee. For the environment, we are providing a way to financially support smallholder farmers that go above and beyond eco-certification standards in unique ways. For example, our Brazilian growing partner, Kiko, is preserving virgin forests that cover half of his land–helping offset carbon emissions and promote biodiversity in an ecosystem that's seen massive degradation due to clear-cutting for cattle grazing.
How has growing a coffee startup been in a city that is saturated with both coffee companies and startups?
It is the coffee crucible of the world. And as you say, no shortage of startups either. We see these attributes as positives that increase our potential. It mandates that we innovate. It pushes quality forward. Seattle is the nucleus of many successful businesses. It's a region with a strong social conscience, that votes for things it believes in with its dollars and its actions. It's a place that's rich in the knowledge, people, and institutions that can help make a business take off. We also tell ourselves that when we do it here, we can do it anywhere.
Where can people buy or find Onda coffee?
All of our coffees are available online (www.ondaorigins.com). You can get a free 12oz bag if you pre-pay for 6-month subscription of coffee deliveries from different origins (enter WORLDCOFFEETOUR at check-out). Our coffee is also sold at select cafes in Seattle, such as Urban Coffee House at 4th and Stewart, and at Mr. West starting in late March.
Paul and Scott Tupper
What does the future of Onda look like?
Onda can mean "ripple" in Spanish and Portuguese. Right now, I think that we're making ripples in how people think about their purchasing and that we're making ripples of impact that reach our growing partners in Laos, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Guatemala (with Burundi and the Philippines coming soon!). And ripples are great! But another translation of Onda can mean "wave." We hope that Onda's future creates a wave of change across the entire coffee industry so that all growers and drinkers are too empowered to support their communities and environment through coffee.
What does a typical work “uniform” look like for you?
Seattle casual, but trying to improve my game.